With thousands of miles traveled and more than 2,700 dogs rescued last year, Good Shepherd Animal Refuge is making sure abandoned dogs find “forever homes.”
The group takes photos of dogs at the Public Animal Welfare Services facility every week. They post them on numerous websites, trying to find homes or rescues that will take the animals.
They also conduct temperament tests, which helps them find appropriate rescues and homes for the puppies and dogs.
Jessica Lawrence, also known by her nickname Jett, spends her time running the tests.
“We go in, walk the dogs around, giving them time out of their kennels,” she said. “They have so much energy built up because they are locked in this small space.”
Lawrence said she often sees dogs labeled as aggressive when they shouldn’t be. “They come out of the kennel and they seem aggressive, but they are not,” she said. “The walking gets that energy out.”
They then bring each dog in contact with both a male and female dog, to see how they react to each. They also bring them in contact with a man and woman. Sometimes, they also test to see the reaction to kids and cats.
“It depends on what the rescue does,” she said. “Many times, dogs may not react well to kids. They don’t understand why they are so small, so loud and move so much.”
Lawrence also makes some trips of her own, such as on Saturday, she was busy taking a dog to the vet to have treatment and then traveling to the Atlanta-metro area to pick up a donated dog house and other pet supplies for a new pet owner who needed help.
She works with rescues all over the nation, including South Carolina, Michigan, Kentucky, New Jersey and Connecticut.
“We are a holding facility, we bring in dogs that are in danger of being euthanized and find no-kill shelters for them or rescues or foster homes,” she said. “Rome has a traditionally high kill-rate shelter. We get them out of there and try to find them forever homes.”
Abby Chesnut, a local photographer, takes photos of the dogs and places them on the organization’s Facebook page and her own site, Lawrence said.
“We are working on getting more volunteers, because we’d like to have someone to place photos on Adopt-A-Pet, a national website that shelters can use,” she said. “The local shelter is so busy and doesn’t have enough staff to do it. We are so busy doing what we do, we don’t have time to do it either.”
One of the things she and Good Shepherd are hoping to change is the perception of pit bulls.
“We call them bully breeds,” she said. “A lot of rescues won’t take them. They are wonderful dogs, but unfortunately there is a regulation in the county that animal control may not adopt out a bully breed.”
Lawrence told the story of two pit bulls, named Puzzles and Radar, who were recently marked for being euthanized.
“We got them out, because they were marked as aggressive,” she said. “We worked with them and now they each have homes in Tennessee. Their families live next door to each other. Both families have kids. The dogs love them and they get to play with each other every day.”
Another rescued pit bull, Mugsy, was recently taken in by a rescue organization specializing in pit bulls. Mugsy was chosen to be the breed ambassador for the rescue, she said.
She is hoping to see more education about dogs’ behavior happen at the shelter and the community, she said. She also hopes to see PAWS add more staff.
“It would be great if they could have more workers to walk the animals to keep them from getting kennel crazy,” she said.
She is hoping more Floyd County residents want to help with volunteering as well.
“If anyone wants to volunteer to help with the temperament tests, they can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org,” she said.